Operation Bounce Back: Refining Your Rejection Reaction


I hate rejection. It makes me boil, bubble, toil—and very troubled. Memories of my worst rejections are swathed in shame and plain meanness. I still curse the lady in New Hampshire who made me beg for $350 until 11 p.m. on a Friday night, when I had a two-hour drive home (you bet she knew this). She had the gall to ask for her money back not twenty minutes after I left her kitchen table, via voice mail. If my sales voodoo worked, her ears are still burning 15 years later. And she’s no better off financially, either.

Rejection is the mortal coil of sales. I don’t know a single honest salesperson who says que será será and means it. No matter how much success we compile, its sting is still vicious.

Alas, your first boss was right: Sales IS a numbers game and the numbers are ugly—rejections far outnumber successes. Yet, because rejection is such a miserable experience, many of us never learn how to handle it.

This is dangerous. Confidence ebbs over time, and without a reliable method of handling rejection, you may become tentative and less effective.

Your method must be simpatico with your personality; in the long run, you can’t afford to be anything less than great at bouncing back. With competition fierce, you need to swing for the fences every time.

Persistence does indeed pay, so really explore your instinctive reaction to ‘no.’ Know that reaction; own it: through acceptance, you can craft a bounce back style that meets your fears eye to eye.

Falling down isn’t failure.

Warren Greshes, author of The Best Damn Sales Book Ever, argues that, “the average sales person is not really concerned with succeeding. They are far MORE concerned with not failing.” This perfectly describes a mindset that bends to rejection rather than overcoming it. You can almost see that average sales person cringing. What might help you to endure the sting and bounce back?

Humor. I led off with my own horror story because it (finally) makes me laugh. I love comparing battle scars with other sales folks; the laughter becomes cathartic. In private, at least we can poke some fun at the jerks who reject us.

Quantify the no’s. It’s a lot easier to hang tough if you expect to run a gauntlet of four no’s or maybe’s or—my personal crazy-maker—no response at all. Anticipation is preparedness.

Persistence = Follow-up. By which I mean: no masochism. If your phone calls aren’t returned, stop with the phone already. Can you connect with the prospect on LinkedIn? If they don’t attend one event you invite them to, try forwarding them a newsletter. Don’t pound your head against a wall.

Is it me, or you? A little blame game doesn’t hurt. Don’t presume the prospect is infallible. For too many of us, this is carte blanche for self-flagellation. Sometimes, no is just no and I have to trust my gut when it tells me to cut and run.

At the end of the day, it’s you. Theatrics and snarky humor are terrific go-to’s when the sting is still sharp, but there’s still only one person responsible for getting your work done and the business rolling.

Coping is a private affair. Coming back after rejection requires great self-control and is essential to running any business. But that means being honest about the pain. Give it space and guess what? The next day really might be sunny.

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Judi Rosenthal

Judi Rosenthal is a New York-based financial industry consultant and self-promotion coach renowned for her ability to win sales in any situation. She is also a recognized authority on niche marketing and coaching financial advisors in the techniques of amplifying sales through a well-engineered personal brand.

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Judi Rosenthal